- Voluntary dehydration is a condition where humans do not drink appropriately in the presence of an adequate fluid supply. This may adversely affect their physical and intellectual performance. The present study aimed to describe the prevalence of voluntary dehydration among elementary school children of different ethnicities and countries of birth. Four hundred and twenty-nine elementary school children, aged 8-10 years, from four subpopulations (Israeli-born Jewish and Bedouin-Arab children, and immigrant children who recently arrived to Israel from Eastern Europe and from Ethiopia) were studied. The level of dehydration was determined by noontime urine osmolality, from samples taken over 1 week in mid-summer. Urine osmolality <500 mOsmol kg(-1) H(2)O was considered to be an appropriate level of hydration. Mean urine osmolality was 862 +/- 211 mOsmol kg(-1) H(2)O. Osmolality above 800 mOsmol kg(-1) H(2)O was detected in 67.5% of the urine samples; among these, 25% were above 1000 mOsmol kg(-1) H(2)O. The most dehydrated group was that of Israeli-born Jewish children, whereas the Bedouin-Arab children were the least dehydrated. A high proportion of children who reside in a hot and arid environment were found to be in a state of moderate to severe dehydration. Bedouin ethnicity was associated with better hydration, whereas Israeli-born Jews were most severely dehydrated. Educational intervention programmes promoting water intake should start in early childhood and continue throughout life.